Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong Told Platform 'Bad Idea' in 2012. It's Now Worth $60bn

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong once tried to recruit help in building the crypto trading platform now worth $60 billion—but was batted aside.

In a comment posted to the HackerNews forum in 2012, Armstrong, posting via an anonymous throwaway account, detailed an "awesome prototype" he was working on that he thought "has a good shot at changing the world."

He said he believed credit card fees to be too high, and that in the coming years the solution would prove to be digital currency "like Bitcoin or some derivative of it."

"Digital currencies show some early promise but are way too difficult to use for normal people. To me this is an opportunity, and I'm in a position to start laying the groundwork for this new platform."

Armstrong's suggestion was largely dismissed. One user wrote: "I'm gonna call it right now: bad idea."

Another said: "Because Bitcoin worked out so well. Have fun with that, dude." Others doubted the future of cryptocurrencies more widely.

Armstrong's idea became Coinbase—today one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges. On Wednesday the platform made its public stock market debut and at one point reached a valuation of more than $100 billion, far exceeding the value of New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange at the time.

Analysts say the successful listing served as further validation for cryptocurrency at a time when popular types such as Bitcoin and Dogecoin are soaring in value.

Armstrong verified that the post was his in a tweet posted on Thursday. He said the post "highlights the importance of resilience and ignoring haters when trying to build something new.

"Nine out of 10 people will think it's a terrible idea, and be quite articulate explaining why this is to you. This will go on for years.

"The wild part is that you never know if you're crazy, or everyone else is. The key here is that if your gut tells you there is something interesting, go take some action toward it and see what happens."

Some epic replies to my original HN post looking for a co-founder in 2012.

The idea wasn’t perfect (I misjudged the merchant angle for instance, simple buy/sell turned out to be more lucrative).


— Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong) April 15, 2021

Since Wednesday's high-profile listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange, shares in Coinbase are now worth around $328—down from a high of $429.

While some observers have called the listing a watershed moment for the cryptocurrency movement, criticisms have also surfaced. For one, cryptocurrency's impact on the environment has been widely acknowledged due to the amount of computing power required to run the network that underlies it.

Hiroko Tabuchi, a climate reporter for the New York Times, on Wednesday said cryptocurrency's carbon footprint is "astonishing."

Brian Armstrong
Coinbase Founder and CEO Brian Armstrong attends Consensus 2019 on May 15, 2019 in New York City. The founder had been looking for a co-founder on internet forums in 2012. Steven Ferdman/Getty